Wisconsin Watch, a nonprofit newsroom, is partnering with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. Sign up for our newsletter for more stories straight to your inbox.
In a statement, Madison Police Department Public Information Officer Stephanie Fryer said the department has stopped identifying the race of suspects in incident reports if “it is not believed (race) will assist in the apprehension or identification of a suspect.”
In a phone call, Fryer told Wisconsin Watch that it is not an official policy, and department staff could not pinpoint when this practice began. Fryer noted that MPD’s “Notable Calls” blog has abided by this practice for years. Fryer explained that suspect descriptions given to police are often too vague to assist with apprehension or identification.
Other police departments have taken similar steps in recent years to stop identifying the race of suspects in crime alerts, including the police department of the University of Minnesota. Minnesota’s university president said such descriptions may “unintentionally reinforce racist stereotypes.”
This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.
DocumentCloud: Madison Police Department Statement
Smart Politics: University of Minnesota to Stop Using Race in Crime Alert Suspect Descriptions
Inside Higher Ed: U of Nebraska at Lincoln under fire for including race in campus crime alert